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"Action by Churches Together" mission:  North Caucasus (spring 2009)

Aid to victims of war in South Ossetia continues

In spring 2009 the second stage of the program was completed that provided aid to refugees, homeless victims of fires and other victims of August 2008 war.

The program's first stage was carried out in August-September 2008. At that time, aid was given to refugees, to the poorest victims of the conflict, to those who lost their homes and had to stay at temporary camps in Tskhinvali.

This program was organized under the aegis of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations with the support of Action by Churches Together, an international Christian organization, and was implemented by the Round Table for Religious Education and Diakonia.

It was a continuation of the long-standing inter-Christian cooperation in giving aid to victims of various emergencies in the North Caucasus and other regions inside and outside Russia. The Round Table's Newsletter has informed its readers about this work on a regular basis.

The aim of the program's second stage was to give aid to refugees and homeless victims of fires in Tskhinvali and surrounding villages and to give long-term assistance in rehabilitating the war-damaged South Ossetian social infrastructure.

We would remind the readers that according to the Russian Emercom, '2 522 houses were destroyed as a result of Georgia's use of modern target killers in South Ossetia. 1 121 houses are not restorable. Virtually, the social infrastructure and housing and communal services are destroyed and the conditions for life and work of dozens of thousands are frustrated'. It is also important to take into account the fact that this infrastructure was very poor even before the war because of the virtual economic blockade imposed by Georgia on South Ossetia since the last century 90s. Moreover, throughout that period the South Ossetians had to live in permanent stress because of continued shelling and fears of new hostilities.

The program's second stage was preceded by a thorough assessment of the situation - the condition and needs of civilian victims, the progress of reconstruction and aid given by other relief organizations. Our staff met with refugees and homeless victims of fires and other war victims in Tskhinvali and surrounding villages as the most affected areas. Negotiations were held with local administrations, the South Ossetian Ministries of Health and Education, the Russia Emercom for North Ossetia-Alania and international humanitarian staff who worked in the region.

Following this in April-May 2009 the program provided aid for refugees, homeless victims of fires and other most vulnerable victims in Tskhinvali and its region. Individual sanitary kits were given to 1710 people, including special hygiene items for women and infants. Among the beneficiaries were 342 people in 8 temporary camps in Tskhinvali. Household packages containing kitchenware, tableware, blankets, towels and bed linen were given to 207 families. The lists of beneficiaries were prepared by the program in cooperation with the South Ossetian Ministry of Health and Social Development.

The necessary aid in vitamins, pills and foodstuffs was given to South Ossetian parturient women and their babies in maternity houses in Tskhinvali and Vladikavkaz.

Another program activity that was held in early June 2009 was an advanced training course for psychologists, speech therapists and pathologists working in South Ossetian schools. It was organized together with the North Ossetian and South Ossetian Ministries of Education and Science. The students were given scientific, methodological and training literature and aids necessary for their further work. All participants received graduation certificates testifying their professional upgrade.

In the future the Round Table for Religious Education and Diakonia considers it necessary to continue its work in South Ossetia to give aid to the most needy categories of victims and to provide assistance in developing the local infrastructure as applied to education, health and culture institutions.

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